CD players/Transports/DACs

In convincing myself that I need to upgrade something from the digital side, I was speaking with a dealer in the West on the phone and asked him his thoughts on this.

He commented that even the mass market CD players have gotten so good now days that buying the "super buck" players/transports just no longer make sense. A pretty strong statement from somebody who sells multi thousand dollar player/transports.

He did comment that I would be better served by upgrading with a DAC for the most improvement in sound, and that in even doing this, the "super buck" dacs won't really get me that much further that several in the "reasonably" priced range.

My question relates to this same topic and other's opinions and feelings on this same topic.

I do not have a high end system, but one of more modest heritage than many that visit these forums. B&K 507 S2 receiver which I love! Sometimes go pre-amp out into a Golden Tube Audio SE 40 amp that I too enjoy very much. Speakers are B&W and/or Linns. Planning on replacing the B&Ws with either Totem or Audio Physic (or possibly others). Digital is: Sony SACD/DVD player, but I don't remember the model and a Sony SACD/DVD 400 disc changer for convenience, with HDMI output for video. Currently, both digital sources are feeding my receiver in the digital domain. I do have a Cal Alpha tubed DAC that needs new tubes and is not presently in use. I also have an Audio Alchemy DTI Pro that is not in use.

I listen mostly in stereo, but the only way for me to convince my wife of a dedicated room was to incorporate a HT system, so I have had to put up with that inconvenience.

Comments on player/transports being that significant for improving sound?

Comments on the DAC issues? Recommendations?

Thanks to all of you who have put more time into this than I have available and for your professional and very helpful feedback.

Ckoffend, I recommend that you take a look at a thread I started entitled, Reference Dacs: An overall perspective, which has tons of the type of information you are seeking.
If you have a dedicated room you are one of the few, do take advantage of that and hook up a good stereo system.
I would say you already got good pieces to get a good setup.
Your California DAC is legendary, just check it here when one comes out for sale it flies in the first hour, that should tell you something, so do re-tube it and get it to work asap!
Decide which speakers sound better with mids and highs (I heard the B&W ad it not my cup of tea, so I would say try the Linn I have not heard) hook the Golden tube SE40 amp to that pair of speakers (try to limit the low freq. to 50 hz or 60 hz it will make all the difference for the tube amp and speakers) Check this out: dirt cheap also.
For the money you where going to spend on the DAC get a good transport CEC is good Forsell is better probably Wadia or Northstar would be better for your DAC.
Tell your wife you are getting a subwoofer to watch movies and get a REL sub (mainly for music) The REL sub will match very well for bass under 60 hz.
Killer system if you ask me!!
Pretty much 2nd Jsadurni's take on your system. You have the DAC, get it re-tubed and serviced to like-new specs and use it.

You didn't say which B&W's you have, but they generally love power. If you could ad a more powerful amp, they may just sing really well. I've CDM 9nt's and it was an amazing difference when I put 400 watts to them! I'd probably look for a proceed 250 watt amp with 3 channels as it would transform your H/T as well as 2 channel listening.

Do you not have a really good sub? If you don't, after the re-tube on the Cal, get one. Mine is a Velodyne Digital Drive and it makes my system. An absolute must for H/T and any speakers that need support of their bottom end. (By the way, after I added the wattage to my B&W's, their bottom end now has much greater authority - like a different speaker)
Teajay, thanks for your referal to this link. I found/find it very helpful. While I am not in as deep as many of the contributors to the thread, I find the information very intriguing. A great recommendation for review and much appreciated.
Getting my Cal Alpha re-tubed and will give it a go again. Thanks for the advise. My sub is a B&W (I think the 675) and the B&W speakers are the 600 Series. They served their purpose of getting my room established and were a quick and painless purchase. Definately ready to replace them though.
He commented that even the mass market CD players have gotten so good now days that buying the "super buck" players/transports just no longer make sense. A pretty strong statement from somebody who sells multi thousand dollar player/transports

I am not a dealer selling mega-buck systems but my experience matches this comment exactly. Digital is the great commoditizer...there is little differentiation in specifications above modest priced digital gear.

Why not aim to build a good HT setup that is commensurate and timbre matched with your new choice of main speakers (even if it takes years to save up as you add matching gear of the same quality as the mains)?

Mix and match of multiple speaker manufacturers designs into a hodge-podge HT system is, IMHO, a dogs breakfast! (No wonder people complain about HT being so poor sounding compared to stereo...what else could one expect it to be if you go this route)
Personally, I've been able to hear differences in DACs more readily than in transports. I agree with the earlier poster who commented that your Cal DAC is legendary. It's a great piece. Having said that, I think balance in a stereo system is the key. Performance will always be limited by the least capable component in the chain. Best of luck in your pursuits.
Okay guys, not sure if this is the best place to post this, so I am also going to start a new thread. I am the original poster on this thread.

CAL is no longer in business. Upgraded CAL Alphas to 24/96 are posted here on the Gon. E-mail one of the sellers to find where the upgrade was performed and got a reply direct from CAL, but factory is closed and I may be SOL.

Anybody know where a CAL Alpha can be upgraded to a 24/96 and or whether I should even pursue this?

Thanks so far for everyone's inputs and recommendations.

The new thread will be title: CAL Alpha DAC 24/96 Upgrade?
Thanks to all of you who have posted and made your recommendations for improving my system and the comments about the relative benefits of higher priced transports.

I have made the following changes, at least in part based on some of the recommendations, combined with limited listening (I have not dealers of any of my new equipment in my area, some travel was required, but hate to say, some gut shot decisions were also made).

Replaced my B&W speakers with Totem speakers (1 pair Arros, 1 pair Hawks, 1 pair mites, mite TC center channel).
Replaced my B&W sub with REL subs, two Q108 and one REL Storm III (2 in one room, 1 the storm in the other)
Installed my Cal Alpha after having it checked out and re-tubed (what a difference this DAC makes)
Added two Channel Island D200 amps (just arrived today)

I will be playing around with the entire set-up and possible changing which speakers are used for which purposes, but even before adding the new amps, the sound improvements with the Cal and the Totems over the B&W has been significant.

Thanks to all.